Car troubles: How to fix a Hyundai that won’t move out of park and why you’ll probably keep seeing me wondering if I should just buy a new car

Just last week I was congratulating myself on the decision not to buy a new car after my last irritating repair session.  The car had been driving nicely to and from work and daycare and I was attached to it.  I made the right decision, I thought.

Just like letting the universe know that you are done with referee reports, it sent me a warning not to get too cocky.  As I started up the car and tried to go in reverse, I failed to be able to move the shift thingy out of park.

I googled “can’t move out of park hyundai”, and came up with a couple of useful pages– the first said to remove the cap on the shift lock override button, which I could not do.  So I called DH and he brought a flat-head screwdriver while I took his car to get DC2 from daycare.  He used the screwdriver as a lever to pop off the cap and then stuck a pencil down into the recesses to press a white button, and then was able to move the shift into reverse and drive without problem.  Before I’d made it out of the parking lot, he was reversing the car and driving it home.

Once home, he used the second useful page  and probably some pages after that to diagnose what the problem was.  Generally when a Hyundai won’t get out of park that indicates a problem with the break lights.  And, in this case, the break lights definitely weren’t working.  Since DH is an engineer who works from home, he has various meters that allow him to check cables and things to make sure they’re ok.  All the fuses were fine, the cable itself was fine.  However, the cable connection was loose, and when DH pushed it back together more tightly, the break lights started working again.  It’s been fine for ~a week at this point.  So DH canceled the service appointment he’d made with the dealer and we’re assuming the connection got too loose and it should be fine.  Just in case, I’m driving around with the shift lock override cap off in case I need to stick a pencil down there.

DH’s company still hasn’t gotten their contract signed and it’s unpaid summer for me, so we’re living off savings.  We have enough in the emergency fund to buy a new car, but I’d really rather not.  I like my little car and feel comfortable with it.  But I don’t like the way my life is disrupted whenever there’s a service problem, even a cheap one.  If I could just predict how many technical problems we’ll be having and when then I’d better be able to decide when to get a new car.  But, sadly, I don’t have a crystal ball and even if I did I’m not clairvoyant.  Given that with DH (temporarily?) unemployed we’re no longer wondering what to do with extra cash, I think I’ll continue holding onto my car for a while.  Maybe I’ll feel differently when the school year starts and it’s more important that I get places on time.  But the longer I wait, the more likely one of those sleek new Civics will be affordable, or maybe a low-range Tesla, or perhaps another technology will have improved.  Most likely we’ll just get a Prius, but the longer I put the shopping off, the better my options will be for the next car that I will drive for (hopefully) more than a decade.

So most likely you’ll be seeing more posts in the near future asking, “Should I replace my car?”  Hopefully not, though!


13 Responses to “Car troubles: How to fix a Hyundai that won’t move out of park and why you’ll probably keep seeing me wondering if I should just buy a new car”

  1. bogart Says:

    Oof, sorry to hear about the car problem and kudos to you and DH for solving it.

    … the longer I put the shopping off …

    Yes, this. I remember after (not when) tablets had first become a thing, and I kept talking to my work IT team about whether I should/shouldn’t buy one and which one, and every. single. conversation. of course ended with the words, “Of course there will be better, cheaper options available 6 months from now.” And now that is how I find myself feeling about cars, too. To replace my own, something either fully electric (probably a Leaf) or something self-driving (my dream, not yet available in any practical/legal sense) is what would tempt me. The former’s available, but my car only has ~100K miles on it and at my current driving patterns I figure should be good for another 8 or 10 years (I am typing this on the bus I now ride to work more days than not, using the free wifi it makes available … bliss … a fact that has reduced the number of miles I drive a noticeable amount).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I love public transit so much. Not enough to live near university students though 🙁

      There does seem to be a lot of design change right now. Internally and externally.

  2. chacha1 Says:

    I hung onto my 1995 Accord until the things that were wrong with it were actual safety things. My 2010 Insight is not going to get the same consideration. I don’t want to be on the hook for replacing the battery pack, and I suspect it’s on borrowed time. Though I guess I should look up “will a hybrid continue to operate with dead battery pack.” I mean, why wouldn’t it? It’s still got a gasoline engine.

    Good job diagnosing your pesty little park problem. :-) Handy having an engineer around!

  3. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  5. Debbie M Says:

    You might like to hire someone like Lemon Busters to inspect your car. They actually can tell when things are about to break a lot of the time. It’s pretty cheap–used to be $100, now I’d guess more like $200, and then you could get things fixed preemptively, keep your car that you like, and hopefully not have any breakdowns.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Huh, I’d never heard of them. Interesting. We do know that I may need a new starter at some point in the near future. That’s another one we’re not sure if it’s worth replacing.

      • chacha1 Says:

        My husband replaced the starter in his Accord at least twice. He really loved that car. As long as the engine and the frame are sound, there’s no reason not to just continue swapping in new parts if you really love a car. (Most parts aren’t supposed to last forever, after all.) He only let that Accord go when the frame got bent, when someone ran him off the road.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I agree, chacha1. I got rid of my favorite car when the rear got crunched in and the tailgate wouldn’t open, but I now wish I’d just paid to get that fixed. My next car was kind of annoying. (My current car is good though.)

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I often feel like anytime I say something’s going well, it’s like putting up the “1” day since X incident and then that’s signaling the universe / multiverse that I won’t see it coming if it wants to come get me.

    I hope it forgets your car exists and leaves you to at least a nice few years of problem-free driving.

  7. Leah Says:

    Here’s what you have to ask: how much are the repairs versus the pain of shopping for a new car and the cost to purchase? If you truly love your car, even if it doesn’t make economic “sense” to replace and fix, maybe it makes sense for you.

    I have a 2004 corolla. I had the chance to replace it with a newer family vehicle and chose to stick with my corolla, even tho some repairs are needed. It needs a new paint job, one more wheel bearing needs to be replaced, and maybe more. I’m going to ask my mechanic to do a thorough work up and let me know what he could fix now or soon to prolong the lifespan of the car. I’ve gotten 13 years out of it, and I’d love to get 10 more. I’m hoping that will also help the market transition to either electric or some post-car thing rather than me buying some thing new.

    Anyway, evaluate for you and not what you are “supposed” to do.

  8. RBOC | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] action and charity).  (Plus there’s always that looming question of whether or not my 12 year old car is going to finally give up on us.)  Of course, I can’t imagine borrowing money to renovate […]

  9. My car worth $750 needs $1000 in repairs | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] then we hopefully won’t be posting about car repairs or the when to get a new car dilemma for a few […]

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